Rain Out: Plan B

Tent camping has one major drawback. When it rains, you are wrapped in a very thin sheet of technical fabric that may or may not keep you dry. The rest of the hassles I can tolerate with a minimum of whining and gnashing of teeth. This trip I cleaned out my entire car looking for my wallet. It turned out to be in a bag I packed for the beach the first day I was here. I missed a trip to the beach because I could not locate my swimsuit which, of course, I found when I found my wallet. I’ve also consistently had to deal with the fact that there is nowhere to leave my dog. Anything I do, she has to come along which is restrictive in the heat of the summer. But all of that is okay. I can deal.

Yesterday I took a drive up the coast and decided to check out a backcountry campground called White Pines in the National Lakeshore. Ashok and I hiked in about 1.2 miles and walked around this lovely little campground complete with pit toilet, bear box and fire rings. I chatted with a guy who was camped there with his dog to get the lay of the land. We said our good-byes, and almost as soon as I got back on the trail, I heard the crash of thunder.

I wasn’t too worried about getting wet. I was worried about being the tallest thing on the prairie segment of the trail and getting struck by lightning. It was really, really close and getting closer. Then, the rain began. This was a surefire southern-style thunderstorm in the middle of an otherwise nice, cloudy day. We hurried back along and were completely soaked by the time I got back to the car. I changed into some dry clothes and we headed back to Traverse City for some lunch.

Since it was overcast, Ashok could stay in the car while I grabbed some food from a nearby food truck. Before I got back, it started pouring again. And this time I was reminded of the pouring rain in Louisiana. It was coming down in sheets. I had on a rain jacket, but the bottoms of my sweat pants were completely soaked by the time I waded through the flash flooding in the streets.

I thought of my little tent in the campground. My tent has sat in the middle of a torrent of rain as water flooded through it rendering it unusable for the rest of the trip. I was imagining the worst and checking the time to see if I had time to drive home last night if there was a waterlogged tent at my campsite. I got back and tentatively zipped back the rainfly to find a completely dry tent and bedding inside. Whew! I’d just wait it out and find some way to kill the time until I could go to sleep. More rain and storms were expected through the night, but if it had survived the afternoon monsoon, it would survive those too.

I certainly didn’t want to sit in my tent for 5-6 hours, so I drove over to my friend Abby’s house. After having a major meltdown because of the stress of the afternoon, I had a good cry and settled in for a few hours. I threw my pants in the dryer and sat on the porch with Abby discussing the state of the world and our past histories. Her husband ordered Chinese food, and my waterlogged and emotionally drained self enjoyed a hot bowl of wonton soup which was just what the doctor ordered. It was soothing and comforting both to my chilled bones and my wounded psyche.

We went back to the tent. Almost as soon as we got settled in another storm came through. We were both so tired, we fell asleep pretty quickly, and I slept until 7 AM. The sun was out, my tent was still dry, and yesterday’s challenges seemed way in the distance. Today’s meanderings have been short and restful, and I’ll end my trip with a night around the campfire with Abby solving the problems of the world.

Part of the adventure of camping is overcoming challenges which are presented by the elements, things not working out as planned and lost or forgotten essentials. It helps keep me sane knowing that I can be that self-contained and survive at least for a short-term with very few luxuries. The rain, for some reason, is my achilles heel. The weather is definitely out of my control, and even as much as I plan, it can still cause lots of problems, some of them dangerous.

So, I’m enjoying today. I’ll be home tomorrow and can sleep in my own bed. But right now it’s 72 degrees, the breeze is cool, and the sun is shining. Life is good – at least for today.

Traversing the Dunes

Looks like it’s going to rain today. It’ll be nice. I’ve been using up sunscreen like it’s hand sanitizer. Plus, you know how I hate the heat. That is, if you can call 76 hot. And I can. Anything over 70 is too … much … hot. The first night here it was 58, and I was in heaven. It heats up during the day which and I commence with the whining. I need to just keep channeling memories of Louisiana in July. How quickly I forget!

I woke up yesterday in the Platte River Campground and spent some time walking down the banks. Tubers were putting in for a day of floating fun, and an outfitter was helping a group get into their kayaks. It was going to be a lovely day on the Platte. From the looks of it, I’m not sure there could ever be a bad day on that crystal clear waterway. I’m making a mental note to come back and float this river.

After my coffee and blogging yesterday, I met my friend Abby and her little one in Glen Arbor. I stopped in Glen Arbor last summer for a brief minute to pick up some M-22 souvenirs. What was meant to be a parking stop turned into a several hour shopping, eating and walking extravaganza. The lunch we ate was unexceptional, but I had to stop at the Cherry Republic for cherry pie and ice cream. This is the cherry capital of the world. And it is the very beginning of cherry season. Abby said it’s a bit late coming in this season, and, of course, the massive Cherry Festival in Traverse City was canceled due to Covid. That would have been last week. So I bought some pie to help out the local merchants. You know, it was a totally selfless move to help the economy. You know that, right? Best charity move I ever made.

We meandered our way around the area for a scenic drive so her baby could nap in the car. Then we headed out for a hike to Pyramid Point in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. If you’ve never been to the Great Lakes, you really may not have a perspective on the glory of these beautiful sand dunes. They are massive. In this area, there are so many ancient dunes inland that it feels like you are driving around the mountains. When the glaciers formed the Great Lakes, the glacial ice pushed the earth underneath into massive sand dunes on the shore. We get to hike those here for a real natural workout and be rewarding with astounding views reminiscent of my time in Seattle looking over Puget Sound.

We sweated and chatted our way up and over several dunes and stopped to smell the roses along the way. It was a beautiful afternoon, and just what I needed to shift into my new way of being. I’ve been looking forward to this trip to help me move beyond “not working” to “re-imagining life”. Thoughts are already percolating on things I’d like to do. Sitting on that glorious sand dune and looking over that vast emerald freshwater sea I imagined that the world was full of possibilities. The island is still a long way offshore but, man, what a beautiful view!

Covid Camping in Northern Michigan

I’ve been patiently waiting for my first adventure in my re-imagining phase. I didn’t really camp much last year so I was a little rusty putting everything together, and, of course, traveling anywhere during this time is not particularly wise. But I decided to travel just a few hours up the road to northern Michigan where it’s not super crowded. I have fallen in love with the M-22 area but have not had a real opportunity to spend some time there. Well, guess what? I have all the time in the world right now.

It’s been nice because it’s less crowded than it would be in a typical summer. I was able to snag a walk-in campsite for one night (unheard of usually) in the Platte River Campground. I’ll figure out tonight this afternoon. If nothing else, I’ll drive home. As a special bonus, one of my best girlfriends lives in Traverse City, so I get to hang with her as long as I’m here. She’s got an infant so she’s eager for some girlfriend time as well. Yesterday, she had about 50 things on the agenda. We didn’t get through all of them, but we had a great time, and we will do more of them today.

We had lunch on the grounds of a historic mental institution turned park and shopping destination which was super cool. A lovely creek ran through it. Abby bought us lunch, and we sat in the shade with her little bundle of joy and Ashok and caught up on all of the happenings of this year.

Abby grew up in Leland Mi, and she’s always posting pictures of an area called Fishtown which is a charter fishing destination and it’s 1900 fishing village has been preserved and repurposed for shopping and dining. I’ve been wanting to visit, so we made a stop there yesterday. We shopped in her father’s store, and we were the only ones in there. She said there is typically a line of people wrapping around the building to get in on a typical summer day. #perksofcovid There is still plenty of charter fishing from Fishtown. We talked to a captain yesterday. Maybe I’ll have some time to check “charter fishing on Lake Michigan” on my bucket list. My mouth waters at the thought of fresh-caught salmon and lake trout, two of my favorites.

I went to my campsite around 7:30. I only had the one night so it was a bit of a hassle to carry all of my stuff 350 yards into a walk-in site, set up camp and pull it back down this morning, but I’ll definitely try to stay there again. You get the benefits of a walk-in site with the amenities of a shower house and semi-close proximity to your car.

I’m sipping an iced mocha at one of my favorite coffee haunts in Frankfort MI called Petals and Perks. When I was here two summers ago, it was jammed with people. This morning, there were three of us inside and a banjo player picking some lovely tunes. I had to stop and sit awhile instead of hurrying off. Today, I’m meeting Abby again for a hike and hope to find a campsite somewhere close to Traverse City which is also unusually quiet right now. I’m going to take advantage of being a local Michigander this year and stay close to home. Besides, when home is as lovely as this why go anywhere else.

P.S. My little aging dog has become puppy-like again on this camping trip. It does my heart good to see here so excited. She struggles a bit with the heat (not Louisiana-heat) as does her Momma, but the cool nights and lake breezes are doing us both good.

More to come……..

Reimagining….

So, it’s been a week since my “retirement” from Whirlpool. Note: Unless the Universe has other plans, I won’t be retiring. It’s more like a readjustment. I sort of like the word ‘reimagining’. My brain needs something to imagine or I’ll go crazy. My mind is like a super-highway for imaginings of fun things to do, catastrophes that might befall me and planning, planning, planning. And when I’m working, it’s always strategizing. My team used to get really nervous when I didn’t sleep and a 1:1 showed up on their calendar. They knew that I’d woken up in the middle of the night and had some new plan of what I wanted them to do. Meditation helps me manage the traffic flow, but my mind is a very busy place.

Now there’s nothing to plan. I got up Monday morning and felt super disoriented. I suppose I could start having 1:1s with my pets for planning purposes, but they don’t really listen to me. Monday was the first day that I felt like I was in a ‘readjustment’ with no real goal in sight. I know that I may as well rest a little. I have a couple of short camping trips scheduled with friends for the next couple weeks, so I’m not going to throw myself headlong into looking for employment or starting any major projects. All day my brain was nudging me. What should I think about? Is there a catastrophe I should worry about? I mean, other than a global pandemic and being ‘readjusted’. What about jobs? Remodeling the house? I jumped from one potential stream of consciousness to another but nothing was particularly urgent or absorbing. Like I anticipated, I feel untethered.

It’s Blueberry season!

I decided on Tuesday to structure my day a little. That helped, and I established a better rhythm for the rest of the week. But it still feels super weird to not have a hundred things to strategize. I spend my time breaking up cat fights, going to farm markets to buy fruit, planning menus and exercising. I’m talking to a few people about future job opportunities but nothing super intense at the moment.

Ashok is very happy with the current situation. I’m home all the time, and we are walking more than once a day. On our evening walk yesterday, I was struck by a neighbor’s garden of daisies. That lovely little patch made me smile. And since I have nowhere to go and don’t have to get there fast, I stopped to enjoy that beautiful happy spot. As I walked away, I heard myself saying out loud, “I love it here. I really don’t want to leave.” Now I know I’ll do whatever I have to do, but I felt committed for a moment to an unlikely place. On that corner in January with the wind howling about me I might not be so mesmerized with Michigan. But in that moment I wanted to stay in the Mitten surrounded by friends, that beautiful lake and that specific little cheerful patch of daisies. In the moment I’m happy for the future to percolate, but I can’t wait to see what happens.

If you could reimagine your life, what would it look like? What small things speak to you every day? Where would you be, what would you do, how would your days unfold?

Sunday Night Check-In: The Color Purple, Baking with Michael and a Weird Kitten

For the first time since winter, I went to Cally’s Curls and Company to get my hair cut. For some reason they had me booked for highlights, but I only wanted my gray touched up. Since I had the time, I spontaneously decided to have some purple highlights put in my hair. I have wanted to do it for a long time but just didn’t think it would fly at work. Guess what? I don’t have to worry about that anymore! Bye, bye Corporate America. Hello purple curls.

It was a beautiful day in Chicago. But I felt a little odd due to the fact that there were so many people. In the city, people were wearing masks even outside due to the crowds. I ate lunch outside with a friend, and it felt okay, but I’m just not sure I’m ready to be running around willy nilly without a care in the world. I spend all of this time watching my diet and exercising so I can be healthy into my senior years. It doesn’t make sense to take risks with something so serious as a disease that could cause permanent damage to my lungs. Everything I enjoy doing in life requires good lung capacity. It’s just not such a big deal to give up a little freedom to stay healthy. With all that has just happened in my life, my health is pretty much everything.

Saturday I went bike-riding with a former co-worker. He had a flat tire early in the ride, so we canned it and went for a walk on the beach. We had a lovely brunch at a New Buffalo hotel restaurant and then stopped for drinks at the Stray Dog. It felt really hot to me outside but I know in my heart it’s not really Louisiana hot. I am extremely grateful for that. At any rate, I came home and relaxed the rest of the day. I was beat.

My friend Michael and I have started baking together across the miles. A couple weeks ago we made focaccia. We each picked out a recipe and texted and video-chatted our way through the process. Sunday, he taught me to make his famous French Bread. I made the starter on Saturday and refrigerated it. Today we made the poolish and folded our way through several rises to bump up the flavor. It was a large recipe, and I didn’t really have all of the right equipment. I found some workarounds but dropped three of my five baguettes as I was putting them in the oven. I was heartbroken after all that work. I gave one of the successful baguettes to my neighbor, and I started buttering the last one to eat with some lentil soup designed to accompany my bread. I am overfull with delicious bread. And my house smells amazing.

Luna, my new kitten is obsessed with bread. I have to keep a hawk’s eye out, or he will start eating dough or snatch a bite of soft bread and run off to eat it. With that rather extensive baking project today, he was bound and determined to get that bread. I had to hide it in another room so I could focus on making my soup, and he literally stood at the door waiting to get in. I have never seen a cat so obsessed with bread.

I’m pretty tired. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ll be glad when things settle down in my mind, and I feel like the status quo is normal. I took some melatonin a little bit ago in the hopes it will help me sleep through the night tonight. If not, well I’ll just rest. I’m in a lot of gratitude right now for my situation. There are lots of scenarios that would be harder than the road I’m on right now. I just want to stay healthy so I can build my future. Right now I’m really enjoying the fact that I can walk my dog multiple times a day and bake bread with a friend across the country. The best things in life are truly very simple, and I am lucky enough to have a simple little life at the moment.

I hope you are sleeping well. Have a good week next week and take care of yourself.

Day 1: Hard Pivot

If you had told me January 1 that in exactly 6 months, I would be sitting here with no job, no plans, no place to go and no path to get there, I would have thought you were insane. 2020 is definitely the year of the hard pivot. She has not been kind. This year is out of control, and she is not relenting. 2020 is making her mark, and she is the mother of all hard pivots. But, 2020, heads up. You aren’t the only fighter. There’s a bunch of us out here ready to rumble with you.

If you are facing a hard pivot right now, my heart goes out to you. Just because we are all facing big change does not mean we are all in the same boat. Some of you are in sinking boats. Some of your boats have already sunk, and you are trying to find a lifeboat. Others are putting on skis to enjoy the ride. And more than a few are heading out to sea in search of a new harbor. Honor the path you are about to take and know that everything is going to be okay. It won’t be easy. We are all going to grow in some fashion, and we will be stronger for it – as a community, as individuals and as a society. Just be sure to grab a life jacket and put on your sunscreen.

I’ve been divorced twice. These have been my hardest pivots. If you look at the facts, leaving was my choice both times. But just because I did the leaving, I did not choose either of them. Circumstances beyond our control always force the pivot. We control basically nothing, and if it was up to us we’d take the easy route. Sometimes the hard pivot is the end of a long journey to change and sometimes the hard pivot begins the road to change. The pivot at the end of my first divorce felt wildly different than the pivot at the end of my second. I wanted neither. I fought hard to keep both of them. But one felt like a final surrender to a long line of slow deaths and the other felt like the waking at the end of a horrible nightmare. In one pivot I was numb, and in the other I woke up screaming.

The pivot I’m in today came quick and without a lot of warning. I feel a bit in shock. For years in my past hard pivots I had dreamed about escape. I journaled about what to do “if”. I had ideas of where I’d head and what my life might look like “after”. Since this was so unexpected I haven’t put much thought into it. It feels a bit like a gift, somewhat like a death and a lot like an unexpected new journey.

I met my former boss yesterday for breakfast and she gave me cute little house decoration with the quote: Every time I get my ducks in a row somebody moves the lake. She nailed it. I set everything up and got everybody going in the same direction with a lot of quacking going on. We were headed there. My house is finally decorated the way I wanted it, and I am feeling happy and connected here. I had a daily routine that worked. I was going to ride this out another five years or so and then think about what to do “after”. And with one quick-start global pandemic, 2020 forced a hard pivot. My ducks scattered everywhere. And I’m not even sure if there is a lake anymore.

Me and my fellow travelers on this particular journey.

A group of fellow travelers and I walked out to the lighthouse pier last night. We watched as the sun set on the last day of our careers with Whirlpool. Sailboats skimmed silently across the orange horizon. Powerboats idled as they entered the river. We took pictures and laughed in our disbelief at our current predicament. I don’t know what will happen in the next year. I don’t even know what will happen today. But I know the path to navigate a hard pivot. It begins with me honoring the closed door behind me. I’ll spend some time reflecting on what I’ve learned, who I am at this moment and what has worked or not worked in the past. Right now is not the time for movement. It’s a time for stillness and reflection. The future will reveal itself.

Have you faced hard pivots in your life? Are you facing one now? How have you handled them in the past? How will you handle this one?

Sunday Night Check-In: Running, Raspberries and Rain

We had storms Friday night. Compared to Louisiana storms, this one was mild, but I found myself laying in bed watching the lightning before I fell asleep. Summer storms feel so refreshing to me. I always imagine the atmosphere is releasing pent-up anxiety over the day’s heat. And the cooler weather behind it feels like such a relief. That being said, it was hot and humid this weekend. Not Louisiana hot and humid, but hot and humid just the same.

I didn’t do much Friday night. I hung out at home and had a nice dinner of homemade hummus, sourdough bread and a big salad. I’m working hard to drop my 6 pounds of coronavirus weight. But just by eating better I already dropped 3 pounds. Hopefully it will be a short focus. It is the best time of year to eat healthy. Michigan’s fruit and vegetable bounty is warming up with asparagus, fresh peas, the first of the blueberries and blackberries. I had some of all this weekend, and today I snagged local raspberries. Yum yum.

My long run Saturday…..

Saturday I got up and ran the longest distance I’ve run in a while. It felt really good to be back out and to run by “feel”. I wasn’t worried about speed or even distance. I just ran for as long as I wanted. I thought I was outrunning the weather, but the rain never really materialized on Saturday. After running, I did some chores around the house, ran out to pick up some local produce, made a big salad with a side of hummus and laid down for a two-hour nap. It felt so good to sleep. I haven’t been sleeping all that well, so I’m truly grateful when I sleep hard.

This morning I made the most wonderful Savory Blackberry Rice Grits for breakfast. I added cocoa powder, a little cayenne and cinnamon. I topped it with some cottage cheese and heated the fruit until it made juice. It was delicious! Then I met a friend for a bicycle ride in my old stomping grounds near Chesterton IN. We actually rode so close to my old house that we took a ride around the block to see the old homestead. We continued on the bike path that I ran, walked and biked for years. It really hadn’t changed that much except that I’m a much happier person now. For a moment, I reflected on how hard my life was at that time and was grateful for the changes I’ve made.

Portrait of a Kitten

I’m getting ready for my last two days of work. I have lots of fresh veggies and fruits for meals. A sourdough starter is bubbling in my kitchen, and I have a bowl of Creme Fraiche fermenting. You can bet I’m going to dig in to a bowl full of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries later this evening for dessert. I rode 21 miles today! I might even make a shortcake.

I hope you guys have the week you need this week. I’m just uncomfortable saying “have a great week” anymore. So many people are struggling and facing hard news that it just seems silly to believe that a “great” week is even possible. But we all have needs. I hope that you get your needs met this week, and I hope that you have some light-hearted laughter at some point, too. Don’t forget your fruits and veggies. Your body will thank you.

Becoming Untethered

Tuesday is my last day at Whirlpool. I accepted a Voluntary Retirement Package about 5 weeks ago, and it’s been a bit of an emotional journey. There were days that I was excited. There were days where I questioned my decision. I had a few long nights of worry about finances and retirement funds running dry. But those things worried me less and less as time wore on. The first 2-3 weeks I moved files for my team and reassigned documents. I made a transition spreadsheet for my yet-to-be-named successor with notes and links on all of my important projects. The work of transition kept me busy and engaged.

About 2 weeks ago, I finished that work and began to have my last 1:1s with my team. I documented my performance feedback for them and discussed it with each team member. It was during those meetings that I felt the shift to closure. In meetings, I started to let my team take the reins and make decisions without me. I found myself more interested in closure with my team than with the work. And thoughts of the future started to bubble up.

I don’t have any idea what will come next. My typical reaction would be to start looking at job boards, engaging my network and start envisioning where I might want to move. But this time I’ve been given the gift of time. Even if I hadn’t, I’m not sure now is the time to look for jobs anyway. I get time to explore my options.

One night as I was laying awake worrying about what was next, I listened to a “masterclass” on the Calm App. I got a lot of good pointers on mindful living from Ryan Holiday (author of The Obstacle is the Way), but one thing really resonated with me. Marcus Aurelius says “Convince yourself that everything that happens is a gift from the gods.” In fact, Holiday says we should attempt to LOVE whatever happens to us.

I thought of the many times in my life when something bad happened to me, but, in hindsight, those events were catalysts for major good. What if I anticipate and believe this will be one of those times? Honestly, I’ve been dreaming for many years of a different style of life but the need for an income trumped those soulful desires. Now I have a gift of having an income while I explore – at least for awhile. And perhaps the gift is sweeter since the distraction of travel is not a great option.

I have to work a couple more days, but, honestly, I’m done. I’ve transitioned my work. I’ve said good-bye to my team. I’ve cleaned out my desk. I’m looking at my budget to estimate how much time my severance will last. I’m talking to friends who’ve given me some very good advice. My friend Bill told me to “think of it as a sabbatical, but make sure you know what you want to accomplish in this time.” I know I’d like to write a book. Starting my own business has always been in the back of my mind. I’ve dreamed of buying a little vintage camper and traveling cross-country. And, of course, hiking the Appalachian Trail is my wildest dream. It’s truly weird to actually think I could do one or more of these things in the next year. All of the excuses I’ve had over the years have dissolved.

On my run this morning, I saw a number of boats in Lake Michigan. A power boat shot out across the lake while a fishing boat bobbed cork-like in the quiet water. It struck me that in two days I will be untethered from my usual shore. I imagined myself pushing away from the dock on Tuesday with nothing but the horizon before me. It may be rough going at first, but soon I’ll be an experienced voyager on the open sea. As I prepare myself for this journey, I will need to embrace being unmoored for a bit from work. It won’t be easy as I feel a delusional sense of security by being employed. For now, I’ll prepare as best I can, toss away unnecessary cargo and embrace the adventure.

Ahoy Matey! Let the adventure begin.

Beginning Again: Running

It was going to be 84 today, so I set my mind to running first thing this morning. I was on track with my training to run a 10K in May. Of course that was in early March. It would be a matter of days before my race in Chicago, The Shamrock Shuffle, and my May race in Grand Rapids were canceled. “Screw it,” my mind said. I’ll just stop running and stress eat until we go back to the office. Of course the three weeks turned into 5 and then into a “to-be-determined” date. As I got more isolated, I got more depressed. And as I got more depressed, I ate more junk. About the time we were asked to go on furlough I’d had enough of my bad eating habits and my lack of exercise.

Jessica “the Bitch” Sprenkel, my decade-long personal trainer had moved all of her classes online and announced she was starting a running program. There would be no cost during the pandemic unless we wanted to contribute. I was getting paid, so I opted for the pay version. Besides, I needed to pay somebody so I’d be accountable for making progress. I wasn’t doing so well on my own.

We could not check in to work at all during our furloughs. We couldn’t talk about work. We couldn’t log on to any company systems. So I totally unplugged for two weeks. I created a sourdough starter, bought some vintage rugs from my neighbor, binge-watched Schitt’s Creek, baked bread and started running and strength-training again. It was nice to be in a live class with my friend from Tulsa since the only other thing I could do was grocery shop. And I was trying to only do that every other week. The running really got my mind back in a good space, and I’ve stuck with it.

To be clear, I never want to get up and run. The last thing I want to do is roll out of the bed and start pounding the pavement. My favorite time of the day is having my tea after I get up, and I don’t like skipping it for a quick run. I usually end up getting up earlier to make time for both. But in today’s environment, I have no commute time. It’s easier to go for a run and even start work before I shower. Working from home makes exercise so much easier… except when it didn’t.

So this morning I got up, threw on some running clothes, fed my pets and prepared a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. I made overnight Muesli with fresh strawberries, so I ate that first thing. I took my warm cup of tea and settled in on my sofa to enjoy. Just taking a few moments to breathe and sit still makes me feel centered. Before my tea got cold, I forced myself to get up and get going.

There were lots of people out at 6:30 AM walking their dogs and riding their bikes. The breeze was cool off the lake, and I even thought maybe I read the temperature wrong. Was it really going to get up to 84 degrees? (Yes, it did.) I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, and my run was literally over before I was ready to stop. It always feels good to be done. It means I can relax in the evening and maybe even blog.

And, guess what…. it’s almost time for tomorrow’s morning cup of tea! I CAN’T wait!

Sunday Night Check-In: Red Gravy, Drag Queens and An Adventure Cat

It has been so long since I wrote a Sunday Night Check-In. If you are new to my blog, I used to “check-in” every Sunday night (or most of them) with a report of my adventurous weekend, silly little thoughts and anything else I found interesting on my time off. For the last year or three, I’ve had a heavy heart or just needed a break from anything more intimate than a review of a coffee shop. I don’t trust like I did years ago, and dang it, I just don’t like a lot of people in the world anymore. Being light-hearted and open has just been a struggle for a long time.

Right now we are in the midst of a reckoning, and I believe good will come out of this. I don’t know what that will look like, but when my world has fallen apart, it’s always ended up being a good thing. Even if it’s a childish notion, I’m going to hang onto that. If there’s anything I’ve learned through the challenges in my life, it’s that I will survive and often thrive. I hope that applies collectively as well.

I started this weekend like I like to start all weekends. I hid out Friday night. I watched TV, walked my dog and basically holed up in my house doing whatever I damn well pleased. I think I binge-watched Season 5 of Schitt’s Creek for the third time. I also watched a silly little drag queen movie called “To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything”. It put me in a light-hearted mood knowing that we all have our gifts and drag queens are just so damn fashionable and funny. Saturday I met a friend for breakfast at Caffe Tosi’s and then walked around the Farmer’s Market. It was light on vendors, but I did manage to snag some fresh asparagus and strawberries.

I came home and met my friend Michael over video chat. We both chose a recipe for Focaccia, and had a virtual bake-off. Over the course of the morning, he texted me that he was also making Red Gravy, and, of course I had to have some. I ran out and got the ingredients and started mine, too. I’d never made Red Gravy before, and it was super easy. While it bubbled away making its magic, Michael and I revved up our blenders, compared notes on our Focaccia recipes and chatted about current events. By the time we laid our rising dough to rest, his husband had planned a dinner party and I decided to bake a Grape-Nuts pudding for dessert. We hung up and texted our next steps as we baked and stirred and kneaded our way through the afternoon. At some point we both were dipping Focaccia in the most delectable red gravy I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t even need pasta.

With all of my cooking done for a few days, I used my time this morning to take Ashok for a walk to the beach. Silver Beach is beat up pretty bad after the high water and winter storms. They’ve dredged sand from the river, but it’s not very clean. I noticed a lot of trash down by the beach and wondered if the city was short-staffed or struggling to keep things up this year. I made a note to bring a garbage bag the next time and do my part to help keep our little town clean. We walked and sat for about 2 hours. It was a lovely morning, and the rain that was forecast never came.

I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with friends from Memphis, Boston and Nashville on the phone. I felt very connected and loved after catching up with them and understanding that we are all on the struggle bus right now. While a lot of people don’t like to talk about their burdens, I find that sharing our burdens makes them lighter. I felt so good I loaded up my new kitten Luna and Ashok and we went down to the bluff to lay out in the shade and people-watch. I chose a spot with a view of the river and the lighthouse, and I watched my kitten play and the boats go by. Time stood still for a bit, and I even closed my eyes for a daydream.

I cooked an amazing smoked pork chop and some collard greens for dinner. When I took Ashok out for a final spin around the block, an odd desire bubbled up. I wanted to write about my weekend. I remembered how fun it used to be to tie my weekend in a pretty bow with a blog. Writing it down always made me feel grateful for the meandering weekend and the simple life I’ve chosen. I actually couldn’t wait to get home to start writing. It’s been a long time since I felt this way. I’m grateful for whatever set of circumstances led me to this place.

Have a great week, y’all. Now that sounds weird given the times we are in. Have the week you need to have, y’all! That feels more congruent with the sentiment I need to express. And know that if I can support you in any way, I’m right here. Share your fears and your burdens with somebody. I promise you’ll both be the better for it. If nothing else, light a candle for our world. We can all use some light.

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